The New Jersey Supreme Court Issues Its Gap Period Decision

January 18, 2017 | No Comments
Posted by Donna A. McBarron

On January 18, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that municipalities do have an obligation to satisfy the unmet affordable housing obligations arising from 1999 through 2015, the so-called “gap period.”   In a decision that will be hailed as a victory for affordable housing advocates and developers, and a loss for municipalities, the Court held that “the need of presently existing low- and moderate-income households formed during the gap period must be captured and included in setting affordable housing obligations for towns. . . .”  This need will be captured in a redefined “present need,” which previously only included the calculation of overcrowded and deficient housing units.   Thus, the affordable housing units which were lost during the period of time in which COAH failed to deliver a workable set of regulations will not be forever lost.  Once again, the Court welcomed legislative or executive action. Unless and until that happens, the gap period will need to be addressed in a municipal affordable housing plan.


COURT REJECTS AUTOMATIC APPLICATION OF “TIME OF FILING” RULE IN BUILDER’S REMEDY LITIGATION

December 15, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Paul H. Schneider

Developers who bring builder’s remedy lawsuits under New Jersey’s Mount Laurel doctrine often cite the so-called “time of filing” rule.  The contention is that in determining whether a municipality is compliant with its affordable housing obligations, the court must base its decision on the zoning ordinances in effect at the time the developer initially filed its lawsuit, and disregard actions the municipality may have taken to achieve compliance after the lawsuit was filed.  The time of filing rule finds support in earlier cases such as Toll Brothers, Inc. vs. Township of West Windsor, and Mt. Olive Complex v. Township of Mt. Olive.

In a December 14, 2016 decision, the Appellate Division of Superior Court rejected the automatic application of the time of filing rule.  In Hollyview Development Corporation I vs. Township of Upper Deerfield, the developer filed its lawsuit in 1998.  For several years, Hollyview did little to actively pursue the case.  In 2013, Hollyview filed a motion for summary judgment, relying, in part, on the claim that the Township was not compliant with its affordable housing obligations back in 1998, when the case was filed.  The Township claimed that in deciding the motion, the court should consider what the Township had done in the interim to provide affordable housing.  Hollyview was unable to show that the Township had taken these actions as a result of Hollyview’s lawsuit. Read more


APPELLATE DIVISION SENDS PIPELINE CASE BACK TO PINELANDS COMMISSION FOR FURTHER REVIEW

November 7, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Paul H. Schneider

In a setback to plans by the South Jersey Gas Company (SJG) to construct a natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands, the Appellate Division of Superior Court rejected a decision by the Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission that would have permitted construction of the pipeline without review by the full Commission.

Because the proposed pipeline will travel through several municipalities in the Pinelands, it is subject to review for consistency with the minimum standards of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP). Initially, the Commission’s staff found that the pipeline did not satisfy those standards as it was not intended to primarily serve only the needs of the Pinelands Area. The Commission’s staff and the staff of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) then negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to allow the project to be built in the Pinelands Area notwithstanding the finding that it did not comply with the minimum standards of the CMP. However, when presented to the full Commission, the MOA failed to garner a majority vote. Read more


The Highest and Best Use Valuation for Property – The Synergy Between the Condemnation Award and the Escrow Amount

October 26, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Connor E. Phalon

The Appellate Division of Superior Court recently published a decision providing further clarification of the seminal New Jersey Supreme Court condemnation case Housing Authority v. Suydam Investors, L.L.C. By way of background, in Suydam, the Court held that a condemned contaminated property should be valued “as if remediated” rather than “as is” when determining the condemnation award. In reaching this conclusion, the Court recognized that the valuation inquiry should not be limited to the actual use of the property, which would inherently be circumscribed by its contaminated status, but instead should rely on the property’s highest and best use. The Court emphasized, however, that an “as if remediated” valuation was an “enhanced value,” which included the estimated transactional costs associated with the remediation of the property to achieve its highest and best use. And in order to ensure that parties are not provided an unfair windfall through this form of valuation, the Court in Suydam opined that the condemnor may seek an order requiring such estimated transactional costs to be set aside in escrow to satisfy the condemnee’s clean-up and transfer obligations. Read more


COURT DOES ABOUT-FACE, SIDES WITH LANDOWNER IN PRESERVED FARM DISPUTE

October 19, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Paul H. Schneider

Scattered throughout rural New Jersey are signs that say “Preserved Farmland – Private Land, Public Legacy.” A preserved farm is land that remains under private ownership, but is subject to an easement restricting the property to agricultural use, typically in perpetuity. A common means of preserving farmland is through New Jersey’s Agriculture Retention and Development Act (ARDA). Using funds from the sale of voter-approved bonds, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) or a county agriculture development committee purchases a deed of easement (DOE) restricting future use of the property to agricultural purposes. Read more


Permit Extension Act Signed by Governor

July 22, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Michael J. Gross

Yesterday, the New Jersey State Senate voted to extend the Permit Extension Act in the 9 Sandy-affected counties for another year until December 31, 2016 (many approvals will be extended until June 30, 2017).

The Governed signed this Legislation late last evening.


Permit Extension Act Poised for Governor’s Signature

July 22, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Michael J. Gross

Today, the New Jersey State Senate voted to extend the Permit Extension Act in the 9 Sandy-affected counties for another year until December 31, 2016 (many approvals will be extended until June 30, 2017).

It is anticipated that the Governor will sign this Legislation sometime in early July.


NJ SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO REVIEW DECISION INVALIDATING DEP’S COASTAL PUBLIC ACCESS RULE

July 22, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Steven M. Dalton

The uncertainty involving the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP”) Public Access Rule promulgated in 2012 under the Coastal Zone Management Rules continues. The Supreme Court by Order dated June 17, 2016 denied the State’s Petition for Certification to challenge the Appellate Division’s Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. and NY/NJ Baykeeper v DEP, 443 N.J. Super 293 (App. Div. 2015) decision. In another Order issued the same day, the Court also denied the State’s motion for a stay of Hackensack Riverkeeper, and vacated an Order of the Court that had temporarily stayed the decision. Read more


The Appellate Division Reverses COAH’s Gap Period Requirement

July 12, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Marc D. Policastro

This is big. Affordable housing in New Jersey has taken another major turn in the Court system due to the latest decision in the Appellate Division handed down on July 11, 2016. Most importantly, the Court’s decision holds that the plain language of the Fair Housing Act of 1985 does not require a municipality to retroactively calculate a new “separate and discrete” affordable housing obligation arising during the so-called “gap-period” from 1999 to 2015, supplementing the decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court in In Re Adoption of NJAC 5:96, 221 N.J. 1 (2015). The Court determined that such a consideration is best left to the legislative and executive branches. This decision brings more uncertainty to developers and municipalities alike. The FHA created COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) to establish an administrative alternative to litigating compliance issues with the Constitutional requirement that municipalities develop affordable housing, arising out of the court decisions in Mt. Laurel I and II. COAH adopted The First Round Rules: a period from 1987-1993; and The Second Round Rules: a period from 1993 to 1999. COAH’s Third Round Rules became the focus of much debate due to its proposed methodology in determining the municipalities’ requirements for developing their fair share of affordable housing. The delay in the promulgation of such rules brought about the “gap period” which is the focus of the Appellate Division’s current decision. Read more


DEP To Ramp-up Waterfront Development Compliance Efforts

June 3, 2016 | No Comments
Posted by Steven M. Dalton

DEP recently announced that it will more aggressively enforce Waterfront Development and CAFRA permitting compliance issues with respect to development along the waterfront. DEP’s compliance initiative will involve unannounced inspections by boat conducted by its Waterfront Enforcement Team (WET) at active waterfront construction sites. Owners of property along the waterfront who are engaged in development activities should ensure that they have applicable, valid approvals in place from DEP, and strictly follow applicable permit conditions. Care should also be taken to determine whether existing structures are legally existing or require legalization approvals.

The approval process involving development of waterfront parcels can be challenging. Pre and post-construction conditions must be carefully followed to avoid potential compliance issues. Appropriate due diligence should be conducted prior to acquisition of such parcels to evaluate whether approvals are needed for proposed development, and whether existing structures require legalization or may be eligible for “grandfathering” rights.

Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla’s attorneys have extensive experience with CAFRA and Waterfront Development permitting issues, and we frequently assist property owners in securing development approvals for new and existing structures and addressing compliance issues. If you have questions regarding this compliance initiative or DEP waterfront permitting or tidelands issues, please contact Steven Dalton of our Environmental Practice Group.